Look in the mirror, HME friends

 - 
Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ten years ago, while teaching at the HME Business Summit, I met a group of professionals who quietly asked me to come visit after the conference wound down. As a happy coincidence, we all lived in Atlanta, so I made time to stop by.

In our first meeting, the UroMed executives shared how much the unexpected death of their former president, Jim Weatherford, had shaken the company to its core. His loss left the rest of the owners wondering if their families were protected in case anything happened to them, too.

UroMed was founded more than 20 years ago by six people, four of them wheelchair users due to spinal cord injury. At the time, 20% of their employees had disabilities. People with SCI typically don’t have the same life expectancy as the general population due to a variety of health factors, so their fear was legitimate.

(I knew what their pain and struggle was like. I lost my father in 2002 to cancer that also invaded his spine. After he passed away, I led the sale of our family-owned business in the dental industry, alongside my younger brother. Wouldn’t you know it? My dad’s name was Jim, too.)

After listening to them speak about their goals for their families and employees, in terms of financial stability and success, I agreed to leave my successful business to help them gain attention for theirs, with the goal of growing to the point of sale. I’m happy to say we succeeded!

UroMed sold in 2014. The senior leadership team for the most part today is still active in the industry, continuing to serve people who depend on medical supplies. A large acquisition isn’t the only good thing that came out of our work, though.

Our team also made an imprint on the social support network globally for people with disabilities, through the creation of Life After Spinal Cord Injury (LASCI). The first of its kind, LASCI was a connection point for people who often became isolated after leaving rehab. Today, LASCI has 70,000-plus followers. At its peak, it was reaching more than 100,000 people every week.

Another program we created: Wheels UP! accessible travel event, now hosted annually by SPORTS ‘N SPOKES magazine. Originally named “Get Out, Enjoy Life”, the program encourages wheelchair users to explore their world using examples of peers doing the exact same thing. Wheels UP! is going into its 10th year of empowering people with disabilities.

I could go on for days discussing the legacy impact that the original UroMed team has left on the HME world and the disability community. In fact, I created and sold my own business in the HME industry—Wheel:Life—due to LASCI’s influence on my own life.

Perhaps that’s why it’s often said all roads in the U.S. urology industry eventually lead back to Atlanta. The UroMed team played a large part in establishing that perception (along with Mentor and Bard), due to their work as a company and through their previous roles with early providers in the field.

That’s why I’m sharing this picture with you.

The mirror behind me was part of the Jim Weatherford memorial library at UroMed until they moved post-acquisition. UroMed founder and world-renowned Paralympian Bert Burns called me the day Jim’s memorial was reduced to a filing closet. He quietly asked me to help clean out the items in Jim’s library to find them a new home.

I left work immediately to help Bert carry boxes and furniture, knowing how hard that process was for him. Bert never said a word, quietly packing, until he looked up to ask if I would take the mirror because it wouldn’t fit in his car. I promised him I would cherish it.

Over the years since, I’ve sent Bert pictures of Jim’s mirror no matter where I was living—including today in Las Vegas. Jim’s mirror now has a place of honor in my work office at Cure Medical.

Doing business in the HME world can be a glory ride. Through the highs, everyone is celebrating their successes. Through the lows, you have to keep moving with comfort in the knowledge that it will all work out for the best simply because of your skill and commitment in serving people who have health needs. That’s why you and I are both still here working tirelessly every day.

When you get hit with unexpected news, or close a chapter in your own business, know that the light is right there in your mirror, too. You’re looking at it—it’s YOU.

Your success might change locations or names, but the heart of it depends your commitment and passion for serving others who need our help.

I often look in Jim’s mirror in my office. It’s come a long way from Atlanta, and I have, too, thanks to the investment UroMed made in me more than a decade ago. I’m eternally grateful for the way this team changed my life in a positive, professional way, even though I fought the process tooth and nail.

HME friends, the moral of the story is this: The mirror you reflect into our community through your ongoing service is the salt and light of the world.

Please keep going through the highs and lows. Your gifts are so needed by so many. You have the choice to reflect light or to reflect darkness. It took me a long time to get here, but I have made the conscious decision to be the light for what is right and what helps people live longer, healthier lives. I hope you will, too.

Lisa Wells is the vice president of marketing for Cure Medical. She can be reached at lwells@curemedical.com.

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